LOS ANGELES — Those wildly inconsistent Lakers showed up for their Western Conference finals opener and managed to defend their home court.
Kobe Bryant scored 40 points, including six free throws in the final 30 seconds, as Los Angeles beat Denver 105-103 on Tuesday night after the Lakers trailed most of the game.
Pau Gasol added 13 points and 14 rebounds and Derek Fisher had 13 points for the Lakers, who trailed by seven points in the fourth quarter. Gasol’s two free throws tied the game for the last time at 99 before Bryant went to the line, offsetting a 3-pointer by Chauncey Billups and a free throw by J.R. Smith.
Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points, Billups added 18 and Kenyon Martin had 15 for the Nuggets, who hadn’t played since taking care of Dallas in five games last Wednesday.
Game 2 is Thursday in Los Angeles.
Bryant, who was 9-for-9 from the line in the fourth quarter, made two for a 101-99 lead with 30 seconds left. Trevor Ariza stole the inbounds near midcourt, and the Lakers ran the clock down to 10 seconds when Bryant made two more free shots.
Billups hit a 3-pointer to get the Nuggets to 103-102 with 5 seconds left, but then Anthony fouled Bryant, who made his final two foul shots.